|"The Flower of Lucca" and "The Virgin of Lucca"|
|Born||March 12, 1878Camigliano, Italy, Borgo Nuovo,|
|Died||April 11, 1903 (aged 25), Lucca, Italy|
|Venerated in||Roman Catholic Church|
|Beatified||May 14, 1933 by Pope Pius XI|
|Canonized||May 2, 1940, Saint Peter's Basilica, Vatican City, Rome, Italy by Pope Pius XII|
|Major shrine||Passionist Monastery in Lucca, Italy|
|Attributes||Passionist robe, flowers (lilies and roses), guardian angel, stigmata, heavenward gaze|
|Patronage||Students, pharmacists, tuberculosis patients, love, hope, spinal injury|
Maria Gemma Umberta Pia Galgani (or Gemma Galgani as she became commonly known) was born on March 12, 1878 in the hamlet of Borgo Nuovo in the provincial town of Capannori. Gemma was the fifth of eight children; her father, Enrico Galgani, was a prosperous pharmacist.
Soon after Gemma's birth, the family relocated north from Borgo Nuovo to a large new home in the Tuscan city of Lucca in a move which was undertaken to facilitate an improvement in the children's education. Gemma's mother, Aurelia Galgani, contracted tuberculosis. Because of this hardship, Gemma was placed in a private nursery school run by Elena and Ersilia Vallini when she was two-and-a-half years old, and was regarded as a highly intelligent child.
Several members of the Galgani family died during this period. Their firstborn child, Carlo, died at an early age. On September 17, 1885, Aurelia Galgani died from tuberculosis, which she had for five years. Gemma's beloved brother Gino, while studying for the priesthood, died from tuberculosis and her little sister Giulia also died at a young age.
Gemma studied at Saint Zita School. She was not accepted by the Passionists to become a nun because of her poor health and her visions. At age 20, Gemma developed spinal meningitis, but was healed, attributing her extraordinary cure to the Sacred Heart of Jesus through the intercession of Venerable Gabriel of Our Lady of Sorrows (later canonized a saint), and Saint Marguerite Marie Alacoque.
Gemma was orphaned shortly after she turned 18, making her responsible for the upbringing of her younger siblings, which she did with her aunt Carolina. She declined two marriage proposals and became a housekeeper with the Giannini family.
According to a biography written by her spiritual director, Reverend Germanus Ruoppolo, CP (now a venerable), Gemma began to display signs of the stigmata on June 8, 1899 at the age of twenty-one. She stated that she had spoken with her guardian angel, Jesus, the Virgin Mary, and other saints – especially Gabriel of Our Lady of Sorrows. According to her testimonies, she sometimes received special messages from them about current or upcoming events. With her health in decline, Ruoppolo directed her to pray for the disappearance of her stigmata; she did so and the marks ceased.
Family and public
Gemma was well-known in the vicinity of Lucca before her death, especially to those in poverty. Opinions of her were divided: some people admired her extraordinary virtues and referred to her as The Virgin of Lucca out of pious respect and admiration; others mocked her (including her younger sister, Angelina, who apparently used to make fun of Gemma during such experiences, and during Gemma's canonization process was deemed as 'unfit' to testify due to accusations of attempting profit from Gemma's reputation), and in light of the extraordinary events surrounding her life, some skeptics thought that she had a mental illness.
Gemma was often treated with disdain by some church hierarchy; even her own confessor was at times skeptical of her mystical gifts. Her spiritual director, Reverend Ruoppolo, was initially reserved, but after a thorough and prudent examination of the ongoing events surrounding her, he became completely convinced of the authenticity of her mystical life. After her death, he wrote a detailed biography of her life, and was responsible for gathering all her writings, including her diary, autobiography, and letters.
In early 1903, Gemma was diagnosed with tuberculosis, and thus began a long and often painful death. There were numerous extraordinary mystical phenomena that occurred during her final illness. One of the religious nursing sisters who attended to her stated, "We have cared for a good many sick people, but we have never seen anything like this." At the beginning of Holy Week 1903, her health quickly deteriorated, and by Good Friday she was suffering tremendously. Gemma died in a small room across from the Giannini house on April 11, 1903—Holy Saturday. After a thorough examination of her life by the Church, she was beatified in 1933 and canonized in 1940. Galgani's relics are housed at the Passionist monastery in Lucca, Italy.
As one of the most popular saints of the Passionist Order, the devotion to Gemma Galgani is particularly strong both in Italy and Latin America. She is a patron saint of students (said to be top of her class before having to leave school) and of pharmacists.
Notes and references
- ↑ 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 Bell, Rudolph M.; Cristina Mazzoni (2003). The Voices of Gemma Galgani: the Life and Afterlife of a Modern Saint. Gemma Galgani. Chicago, IL, US: University of Chicago Press. ISBN 9780226041964. http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=wVUyo4TfVyQC&printsec=frontcover. Retrieved 2009-06-15.
- Robert A. Orsi, "Two Aspects of One Life: Saint Gemma Galgani and My Grandmother in the Wound between Devotion and History, the Natural and the Supernatural," in Between Heaven and Earth: The Religious Worlds People Make and the Scholars Who Study Them (Princeton University Press, 2005), 110–45.hu:Galgani Szent Gemmano:Gemma Galganiru:Гальяни, Джемма